March 31, 2015
Guest blogpost by Hans Luzius Schmid from the Our New Europe initiative.
Brexit, Grexit, animosities, frustrated citizens, a rising euro-scepticism, the Ukraine, a permanent EU crisis – all this calls for a fundamental debate among citizens throughout Europe on the future of our continent, to find a way towards a free, democratic, prosperous common Europe. The citizens in 51 European countries are invited to participate and to vote for “Our New Europe”.
So far, there has never been a EU-wide referendum, asking the citizens to give their opinion, let alone to decide on the future of Europe. Worse, the results of some national referenda regarding the EU have even been ignored, e.g. in 2005, when the French and Dutch rejected the “Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe”, which was thereafter all the same enforced as the Lisbon Treaty. It is time to take the citizens seriously.
A fundamental debate instead of permanent fire brigade exercises
The main question is: Do Europeans at all want to get involved with Europe? Do they have enough confidence in themselves as enlightened, emancipated citizens to design their new Europe, or should the future of our continent be left to politicians, as up to now?
What kind of democracy do the citizens want: Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people” or simply EU elections every five years? Do they want to have a word – or even the final word – to say in their Europe, e.g. on the transfer of competences to the EU, or on the admission of new member countries? Should a new European constitution be adopted in the same way as the Treaty of Lisbon, or more democratically, by a Constitutional council, elected by the people, and then set into force by referendum in each member country?
Do Europeans want ever more centralization, political integration and unification, or do they want a more decentralized, federal Europe, where the great cultural and political diversity of European countries can be maintained? Should member countries be relegated to do nothing but carrying out the EU’s decisions, or should they basically decide themselves?
Is subsidiarity just a nice, often-cited principle; or should the responsibility lie consistently with the smallest entity capable to solve the problems? Should “Brussels” regulate the details of the citizens’ daily life throughout Europe, or only what is absolutely necessary, yet not what member countries can do themselves as well or even better than “Brussels”?
What kind of Europe do its citizens want?
“Our New Europe” invites citizens to vote by associating themselves with one of the following scenarios:
- EU reinforced or “Business as usual”: “Brussels” continues to strive for its “future without alternative”, an ever more centralized, politically integrated, bigger European Union (finally the United States of Europe), to be implemented, as so far, without EU-wide referenda, i.e. without the citizens’ final word.
- EU reduced or “Back to free trade”: EU opponents, e.g. the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), want their country to withdraw from the EU – or not to join, if it is not yet a member – so that it can decide on its own laws, including on its immigration, and sign free trade agreements with all countries in the world.
- EU transformed or “Europe at variable geometry”: EU critics, sceptics but also sympathizers, e.g. the British Prime Minister Cameron, call for a flexible, subsidiary Europe, close to its citizens, in which each country can decide in a referendum to adhere either to a politically integrated core EU, or to the European common market or to a large free trade zone, open to all European countries between Reykjavik and Vladivostok.
A telling example is the Ukraine: Which of these scenarios do its citizens want – EU membership (1), a partnership with Russia (2), or the Ukraine in a large free trade zone as a neutral bridge between East and West (3)?
Confidence in responsible citizens who have come of age
“Our New Europe” is a test of democracy throughout Europe. It aims at triggering a broad debate among citizens, to which each country can contribute its unique experience, and a democratic process to overcome the crisis and the democratic deficit of the EU, to transform the citizens’ frustration into enthusiasm for Europe and to lead to a free, democratic, prosperous and strong common Europe, a Europe of its people(s), with its people(s), by its people(s) and for its people(s), an example for the peaceful coexistence of many different nations and cultures in a globalizing world full of conflicts.
“Our New Europe” can only be successful, if the citizens all over Europe get informed and if they vote and commit themselves for their Europe in large numbers on www.our-new-europe.eu. Europe’s future lies in the hands of its citizens.